A Unity business owner and former town selectman died early Thursday from injuries he sustained when a passing vehicle struck the lawnmower he and his 5-year-old granddaughter were riding on Albion Road in Unity, Waldo County Sheriff Jeff Trafton said.

Clement Blakney, 66, of 317 Albion Road, which is U.S. Route 202 and state Route 9, was driving the lawnmower with his granddaughter in his lap and crossing the road in front of his home just before 4:30 p.m. Wednesday when a Nissan SUV driven by Nicole Ellis, 46, of Fairfield hit the lawnmower while traveling north toward Unity, Trafton said Thursday.

Blakney and his wife, Jeri, opened Younity Winery & Vineyards at their property on Albion Road in 2009.

Blakney sustained multiple injuries, including severe head trauma, and was taken by Unity Volunteer Ambulance Corps to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. He died sometime around 3:30 a.m. Thursday, the sheriff said.

Blakney’s granddaughter was taken to a Waterville hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, according to a sheriff’s sergeant who went to the hospital Wednesday night. Ellis also was taken by Unity Ambulance to a Waterville hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, Trafton said.

No charges had been filed as of Thursday.

“Initially, there was no indication of any wrongdoing,” Trafton said.

Jackie Reny, of Vassalboro, a longtime friend of the Blakneys, was shocked to learn of Clement Blakney’s death Thursday.

“He was a kind, charismatic, thoughtful guy, community supportive, a great friend, very generous” she said.

Reny and her husband, Peter, are members of the Vassalboro Business Association. She said Blakney helped the association raise money to help students from Vassalboro attend college by hosting a wine tasting at The Olde Mill on Main Street in that town.

“He will be dearly missed,” she said.

Connie Bellet and Phil White Hawk, of Palermo, also good friends of the Blakneys, were grieving Thursday over the loss, describing the Blakneys as loving, hardworking people.

“We knew him very, very well,” White Hawk said. “When I heard about his demise, it was just like a physical blow. I’m still dealing with it. Clem was an extremely creative person. He was a generous person and giving of himself to other people.

“He was innovative, an extreme computer wizard, and Connie and I worked with him for years when he first came to Unity. We helped him plant the grapes for the vineyard. There were thousands of grapes that we planted and they were just little, bitty twigs. It was marvelous over the years to see them grow and see Clem prosper.”

Bellet helped to design the labels for the winery’s products and had designed another one recently that Clem Blakney never got the chance to see, she said.

“The thing I miss most about Clem is his sense of humor,” she said. “He was just a bright light shining from Unity. He was a very dear friend. He was a punster; he liked word games and things like that. He just had a delightful radiance about him. It was just so wonderful to be in his presence, tramping around in his bare feet in his vineyard, rain or shine, taking care of his grapes, Jeri beside him. He would have parties, sometimes with fireworks, in his backyard. He wanted to make life a fun thing for people.”

The sheriff, who went to the crash scene, described the lawnmower as a zero-turn model that is steered with levers.

He said state police worked to reconstruct the crash Wednesday night, but darkness fell before the task was completed, so they returned Thursday with a drone and map to finish the reconstruction.

On Thursday, vehicles rushed along Albion Road in front of Younity Winery and the Blakney home, where orange traffic cones had been set up at the end of the driveway, indicating that the business was closed.

A man across the road at TA’s Automotive Sales and Service said he was there Wednesday when the crash occurred, but he declined to comment, other than to say the Blakneys are nice people.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

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Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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